9 Ways To Improve Your Sleep Without Drastically Changing Your Lifestyle
If you struggle to fall asleep, or spend a good portion of each night tossing and turning, it might help to make a few small lifestyle changes, in order to get better sleep. Because if you haven't been sleeping well, there's a good chance your daily habits — including what you do right before bed — are holding you back from getting a good night's rest.
"Our daily lifestyle habits have a huge effect on our sleep, both quality and quantity," family sleep specialist Whitney Roban, PhD, tells Bustle. So the best place to start is by reviewing your overall lifestyle — from what you eat, to what you drink, to how you wind down at night — and thinking about how it might be playing a role.
There are a lot of factors, of course, so try not to get too overwhelmed by making a million changes at once, but instead starting small and building up from there. "The good news is that there are so many small changes you can make on a daily basis that will have a significant positive effect on your nightly sleep," Dr. Roban says. Read on for a few things you can do right now to drastically improve your sleep, according to experts.
1. Wind Down Before Bed
It's common to be in a go-go-go state of mind, right up until you climb into bed. But if you find that you struggle with insomnia, try slowing down earlier in the evening.
"Reserving the hour before bed for relaxing [...] can help you unwind and prepare for sleep," Martin Reed, certified clinical sleep health expert and founder of Insomnia Coach, tells Bustle.
This might include listening to chill music, partaking in a soothing hobby, or sipping decaffeinated tea — whatever will give your brain a chance to relax.
2. Spend Time Outside
Make sure that, at some point each the day, you spend a little time outside. "This helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycles," Dr. Roban says. Taking in the sunlight can help to reset your internal clock, so by the time evening rolls around, you're more than ready for bed.
3. Get Some Exercise
Whether it's walking to work, riding your bike, or hitting the gym, getting a little more exercise during the week can help you sleep better at night.
"Not only is exercising good for overall health, it also improves our sleep health, too," Reed says. "One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week [...] led to longer sleep durations."
4. Turn Off Your TV
Instead of zoning out during a TV show or watching a movie before bed, try reading instead. "When we watch TV in bed, we train ourselves that the bed is a place for watching TV — rather than a place reserved exclusively for sleep," Reed says. "Additionally, if you fall asleep with the TV on, the sound from the TV is likely to reduce sleep quality and disrupt sleep during the night."
5. Drink Water Instead
If you're someone who struggles to sleep, caffeine may be to blame. "Even morning caffeine can linger in your system when it’s time for bed, so try to avoid caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda, as much as possible in your usual diet," Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, tells Bustle. This small change might be just what your body needs to actually fall sleep.
6. Eat More Fruits & Veggies
"Just as exercising can improve sleep as well as our overall health, studies suggest [healthy food] has a role to play, too," Reed says. "One study found that those who consumed diets high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fish fell asleep faster when compared to those who consumed a traditional Western diet."
You don't need to dramatically change the food you consume all at once, but slowly incorporating more of these foods into your daily meals can make a big difference.
7. Pick A Bed Time & Stick To It
Instead of going to bed at different times each night, decide on a good bedtime for you — and try to stick to it.
"Your circadian rhythms work best when you go to bed and wake up around the same time every night," Mark Burhenne, DDS, founder of AsktheDentist and author of The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox, tells Bustle. "The best sleepers rarely need an alarm clock because their bodies are already aware of when it's time to get up in the morning."
Stick to the schedule on the weekends too, and you'll find that it's easier to fall asleep, and stay asleep, during the night.
8. Keep Your Phone In Another Room
While it can be tempting to drift off to sleep whilst scrolling the internet, looking at your phone before bed can actually disrupt sleep.
"When your eyes see blue-tinted light, like that from electronics, they signal your brain that it's time to be awake," Dr. Burhenne says. "Many smartphone manufacturers have turned to offering some kind of warming 'night mode' to get rid of some blue light. However, I find that it's best to put down the electronics an hour or two before bed."
Again, this will also help with the whole winding down process, by giving your brain a break from the world, and allowing you to drift off to sleep.
9. Take A Warm Shower Before Bed
Even if you're more a morning shower person, start taking a quick rinse right before bed, to help your body prepare for sleep.
"Naturally, our body temperature drops when we fall asleep, so taking a hot nighttime shower just before bedtime artificially raises the body temperature," Dr. Kansagra says. "The subsequent fast drop can make it easier to fall asleep." Just keep in under ten minutes, so you don't get too hot.
If you're looking to improve your quality of sleep, making some small lifestyle changes like these can make all the difference.